A Special Report from Russell Kay

Friday, June 19, 1998

Russell Kay was one of my valued colleagues at the old BYTE. When he sent this email to the old BYTE gang I begged for the privilege of putting it up here.

PC EXPO 1998

Russell Kay


Tuesday I went down from homebase in Worcester, MA, to New York for PC Expo -- partly to see whatever there was to see, partly to see people and hand out business cards and resumes, and partly to carry the BYTE flag one last time. Even though there is no more BYTE.

When I woke up the next morning, sore and stiff, I felt an almost (but not quite) overwhelming urge to go and write up a report for the rest of the BYTE staff. Then reality hit me over the head again. So please note that I'm posting this just because I feel the need to write it out and share it with you guys.

BTW, I tried to make as much trouble as I could, though it didn't really work. I wore my oldest BYTE nametag, plus my BYTE Best of Show JUDGE button/ribbon ... which no one seemed to notice if I didn't point it out. My official mag-stripe PCExpo press badge said "With Byte until 5/29." I had my BYTE cap along, but it was too hot to wear for long. It was actually significantly cooler and less muggy outside the Javits Center than in.

Anyway, here are a few things I found of interest. Flat panels were everywhere. Someone (I believe it was NEC) had a Wall Street Special area, a workstation set up with three 20-inch panels side by side. Wow! Also everywhere were little computers: palm-sized, WinCE handhelds, sub-sub notebooks, of which the clear winner has to be the Sony 505. Finally, a 3-pound laptop with a keyboard big enough for non-Japanese fingers and a display big enough for those of us who wear bifocals. The new palm-sized units that run Pen Windows CE 98 2.0 (or whatever Microsoft is calling this particular operating system) from Casio, Everex, and Philips were nice. It will be interesting to see how these play out against the well-entrenched and newly turned out Palm III from 3Com. I recently got a Palm III, and I have to say I love it. It's a truly wonderful little unit, and it's small enough for any pocket. Synchs with my Lotus Organizer address book and calendar, entering notes or memos with the Grafitti alphabet quickly becomes second nature (except for those infrequent symbols), and it even comes with a couple of decent games for those times when you really need one.

Lots more digital cameras everywhere, plus new approaches to getting the images out of the camera and into the computer. Adapters that would take various kinds of flash memory cards, etc. Also an interesting panoramic device, using a convex parabolic mirror to take a one-shot 360-degree panorama ... complete with software to unravel that image into a normal perspective. With a 1280 x 960 camera, it made some pretty good pictures.

Saw a neat software package called Enfish Tracker Pro, which they describe as an "information tracker," not a finder. They tried to give us a demo at BYTE in the last days before Black Friday, but it wasn't to be. Anyway, this more-than-indexes everything on your computer, in the background, and lets you find stuff fast. So what? It differs from the MS findfast in that you can identify synonyms, misspellings, and aliases for particular terms, you can specify dates (e.g., last two weeks), and it shows you. Right Now. No waiting. It's got all the information already. Very slick, and I'm trying to get my hands on a copy for my own use. (http://www.enfish.com)

For some reason, carrying cases and luggage fascinate me. So I was really intrigued by a a company called Porter Cases (http://www.portercase.com). They have what looks like one of those standard carry-on sized bags with wheels and a pull-out handle. Except it's hard-sided, has good-sized wheels, and the pull-out handle also can be released wo the case folds down 90 degrees and becomes a luggage cart that can support another 200 pounds of stuff. They make specially configured models for computers, photo gear, LCD projectors, and stuff. In the $200+ range, about 12 pounds, and a very neat, patented design.

Talked to lots of PR and vendor people, who all had the same question about BYTE: "Why did they do it?" To which, of course, there is no reasonable answer.

I met with my friends at Viewsonic, who showed me a digital flat panel (takes digital signals directly, without having to put it through D/A and A/D conversions; see http://www.dfp-group.org) and a new 21-inch CRT they're working on (P817) that will do 2000xsomething ... it's not quite ready for prime time, but they expect to be able to start manufacturing in July, shipping in September. They're doing a joint project with Matrox to provide a graphics card that can drive the sucker.

Also, Mark Gersh at Viewsonic made this comment: "Whenever we did those east coast press tours, we always had to prepare the hardest for BYTE. With the other magazines, they'd look at a monitor and say, 'that looks good'; with BYTE you'd start asking questions about how and why and what are you doing inside the case." He also said, unprompted, that there was no other magazine that had the technical credibility that we had. *sigh*

Well, it was especially nice to be able to look at just whatever I felt like, without a checklist and nominations and the like. Did I miss the long into-the-wee-hours BYTE Best-of-Show Awards discussion? You bet I did -- those meetings were, in fact, the highlights of most shows for me. I think I learned more in each of those not-so-few hours than in a normal month otherwise.

But nine hours of bus riding sandwiched around a day of show-going is not something I'd particularly recommend. It's cheap, but wearing.



Kay &; Kaboodle, Technical Editing and Writing

8 Tupelo Road * Worcester, MA 01606



Now you have some idea of the quality of inputs we got internally at BYTE, and what a task it would be to build a new team this good. And why I miss BYTE a lot. Thanks, Russ. Maybe we can start up a new BYTE discussion forum at BIX; it's where we used to hang out until McGraw Hill built us a new playground (and then we were locked out of it...)

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